Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Saints on St. Joseph

Here are two Medieval era Saints preaching on St. Joseph. Devotion to St. Joseph began to flourish during the Middle Ages, one reason being the people needed a worker-saint to look up to as capitalism began to replace the lord and manor form of government and economy. I do not know exactly how a transition happened, because surely people worked for themselves and their family since time immemorial in European history but capitalism became more prevalent as the people went from feudalism to cities.

The first sermon is found in the Breviary for the Solemnity of St. Joseph on March 19. The second can be found for the Feast of the Patronage of St. Joseph, which was the third Wednesday after Easter; it has since been repressed. In our time there is a feast of St. Joseph the Worker on May 1, in which we honor Our Lord's foster-father as the provider for Our Lord and His mother. Notice the feast day is on Communist Labor Day; St. Joseph should be our primary patron against the evils of Communism, which the Church has always declared to be evil, as seen by its fruits.

The Lesson is taken from a Sermon by St. Bernard the Abbot
Homilia 2 super Missus est, prope finem
Who and what manner of man this blessed Joseph was, we may conjecture from that title which the providential ordering of God bestowed upon him. He was chosen to the honour of being called, and of being supposed to be, the father of God. What he was we may also conjecture from the very name Joseph, which is to be interpreted as Increase. Wherefore let us liken him to that great man after whom he was named, the Patriarch Joseph. This latter sojourned in Egypt, even as he did. From this latter he not only inherited a name, but an example of chastity which he more than equalled, so that he was like unto the Patriarch Joseph in grace and innocence.

If the Patriarch Joseph (sold by his brethren through envy, and forced into servitude in Egypt) was a type of Christ sold by his brethren and handed over to the Gentiles, the other Joseph (forced through the envy of Herod to flee into Egypt) did in actual fact bring Christ amongst the Egyptian Gentiles. The first Joseph (keeping faith with his lord) would not carnally know his lord's lady. The second Joseph (spiritually knowing the Lady who was the Mother of his Lord to be virgin) kept faithfully virgin toward her. To the first Joseph was given to know dark things in the interpretation of dreams. To the second Joseph was given in sleep to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven.

The first Joseph laid by bread, not for himself only, but for all the people. The second Joseph received into his keeping the Living Bread which came down from heaven, and he kept the same, not for himself only, but for all the world. Without doubt, good and faithful was this Joseph who espoused the Mother of the Saviour. Yea, I say unto you, he is that faithful and wise servant whom the Lord hath made ruler over his Household. For the Lord appointed him to be the comfort of his Mother, the keeper of his own body, and, in a word, the chief and most trusty helper on earth in carrying out the eternal counsels.

The Lesson is taken from a Sermon by St. Bernardin of Siena
Sermo de S. Joseph
Here is what we may call the ordinary rule concerning the bestowal of special favours on natural beings, namely ; whenever divine grace electeth such an one to a particular privilege, or to a vocation of special responsibility, the person so elected receiveth all the gifts of grace which be needful for him in that state of life whereunto he is called, and receiveth them abundantly. Of this there is an excellent instance in the case of the holy Joseph, the so-called father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the real husband of her who is Queen of the world, and Lady of the Angels. He had been elected by the eternal Father to be the faithful cherisher and protector of God's two chief treasures, namely, Jesus and Mary, God's own Son and Joseph's own wife. This duty Joseph faithfully discharged. Wherefore there hath been said unto Joseph, those words of the Lord : Well done, thou good and faithful servant ; enter thou into the joy of the Lord.

Let us consider this man Joseph in connection with the Universal Church of Christ. Is he not that elect and chosen one, through whom, and under whom, Christ is orderly and honestly brought into the world? If, then, the Holy Universal Church be under a debt to the Virgin Mother (because through her the Church hath been made to receive Christ), next to Mary the Church oweth thanks and reverence to Joseph. He verily is the key which unlocked the treasures of the Church of the Old Testament, for in his person all the excellence of Patriarchs and Prophets cometh to the completion of achievement, seeing that he alone enjoyed in this life the full fruition of what God had been pleased to promise aforetime to them. It is therefore with good reason that we see a type of him in that Patriarch Joseph who stored up corn for the people. But the second Joseph hath a more excellent dignity than the first, seeing that the first gave to the Egyptians bread only for the body, but the second was, on behalf of all the elect, the watchful guardian of that Living Bread which came down from heaven, of which whosoever eateth will never die.

No doubt Christ still treateth Joseph in heaven with that familiarity, honour, and most high condescension which he paid, like a son to a father, whilst he walked among men. Nay, rather, Christ hath now crowned and completed in heaven those habits which he learnt on earth. Hence it is reasonable to see a particular application to Joseph in those words uttered by Christ : Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord. Note that we think of the joy of eternal blessedness as entering into the heart of men. But the Lord preferred to say to the man : Enter thou into the joy. Thus did the Lord mystically set forth a joy which should not only be within man, but outside him also (that is ; above him, and below him, and all round about him, and overflowing him), as it were a great bottomless pit of joy to swallow him up altogether. In this thy blessedness, O thou blessed Joseph, remember us! In thy helpful prayers, make intercession for us with him who was supposed to be thy Son! Likewise, obtain some favour for us from that most blessed Maiden who was thy wife, and the Mother of him who with the Father and the Holy Ghost, liveth and reigneth one God, world without end. Amen.